These are the World Central Kitchen aid workers killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza

These are the World Central Kitchen aid workers killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza

Relatives and friends mourn the death of Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a member of the U.S.-based aid group World Central Kitchen who was killed as Israeli strikes hit its convoy delivering food in Gaza, during his funeral in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.

Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

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Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Relatives and friends mourn the death of Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a member of the U.S.-based aid group World Central Kitchen who was killed as Israeli strikes hit its convoy delivering food in Gaza, during his funeral in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.

Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Governments and people around the world have been expressing sorrow and anger over the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers by Israeli airstrikes as they were trying to deliver food to Palestinians in Gaza.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “appalled” by the deaths of the aid workers — three of whom were from the United Kingdom.

World Central Kitchen, led by a humanitarian chef, has fed crisis zones for years

World Central Kitchen, the food charity founded by chef José Andrés to help feed people in disaster zones, has identified the three Britons and the other volunteers who were Australian, Palestinian, Polish and a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.

World Central Kitchen pauses Gaza aid, as Netanyahu acknowledges an 'unintended hit'

Israel’s blockade and six-month bombardment of Gaza has fueled a growing hunger crisis in the territory, with northern Gaza facing imminent famine, international aid groups and U.N. experts say. Israeli officials have denied restricting aid and called reports of a looming famine “a complete lie.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack on the aid workers was unintentional. And in a message Tuesday, the Israeli military offered condolences to World Central Kitchen and praised the group for bringing humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, as well as Israel after the Oct. 7 attack, saying it would make public the findings of its investigation into the case.

On Wednesday, the bodies of the six foreigners were sent out of Gaza into Egypt on their way to their home countries, The Associated Press reported. The Palestinian’s remains were handed over to his family to be buried in Gaza.

They were some of the 196 humanitarian workers killed in Palestinian territories since October, according to the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the region.

These are the identities of the seven World Central Kitchen workers who died.

Zomi Frankcom works with colleagues and volunteers to unload and arrange for distribution lunch casseroles at Gara de Nord railway station in Bucharest on April 6, 2022. The Australian aid worker was among those killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza.

Ioana Moldovan for NPR

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Ioana Moldovan for NPR

Zomi Frankcom works with colleagues and volunteers to unload and arrange for distribution lunch casseroles at Gara de Nord railway station in Bucharest on April 6, 2022. The Australian aid worker was among those killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza.

Ioana Moldovan for NPR

Australian aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, a relief lead for World Central Kitchen, died “doing the work she loves,” her family said in a statement to media.

She had helped people during brush fires in her native Australia, supported the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic and fed Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion.

Romania hasn't always seen itself as a safe haven. War in Ukraine has changed that

NPR spoke with Frankcom in 2022 in Bucharest, Romania, where she coordinated meals for Ukrainian refugees. She said she first got involved with the organization while living in Guatemala in 2018, after nearly a decade working in banking and finance. World Central Kitchen arrived to provide emergency aid to communities following a deadly volcanic eruption in the country. “It was like, ‘Okay great, can you make a sandwich?’ ” she recalled them saying. “‘Yeah, I can make a sandwich.’ ‘Right, come on, we’re going to make 3,000 of them.’ ”

On Wednesday, chef Andrés posted an emotional message on social media about Frankcom.

This was Zomi in Pakistan….like so many other missions….always a brave soul….an Angel….
Dear Zomi I have no words….but I promise you, your spirit will always be with us…we will always feed people, with love and kindness….you made all of us better…..You made invisible… https://t.co/RFb1dCj29b

— Chef José Andrés 🕊️🥘🍳 (@chefjoseandres) April 3, 2024

“Dear Zomi I have no words … but I promise you, your spirit will always be with us,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. He went so far as to say he wished he hadn’t started the charity because she would still be alive today.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Frankcom on Tuesday, saying, “This is just completely unacceptable. Australia expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers.”

Several victims had served in armed forces

All three British citizens who died had previously served in the country’s military and were using their experience in conflict zones to help safeguard the work of the charity’s staff members as they moved around Gaza.

The family of James Kirby, who was 47, said in a statement issued by the U.K. government that they were “incredibly proud” of his work, which included military tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and that he would be remembered as a hero.

But some family members have told British media Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response — “There was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war” — angered them.

“They are not soldiers, they are there to help and feed people. Making them a target is unacceptable. Their response for us as a family wasn’t nice to listen to,” Adam McGuire, Kirby’s cousin, told the BBC.

John Chapman

Family of John Chapman

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Family of John Chapman

John Chapman

Family of John Chapman

The family of John Chapman, who was 57, said he “died trying to help people” in what they called an “inhumane act” and would be missed.

James Henderson, 33, had served in Britain’s Royal Marines before moving into civilian security work.

The Palestinian worker who was killed, Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, was from the city of Rafah, in the southern part of Gaza. He had worked for World Central Kitchen as a driver and translator since the beginning of the year, the AP reported.

Polish citizen Damian Sobol, 35, was identified by a local government leader in his hometown of Przemysl on social media, saying, “There are no words to describe the feelings of people who knew this amazing young man right now… May he rest in peace.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda also praised the killed workers. “These brave people changed the world for the better with their service and dedication to others. This tragedy should never have happened and must be explained,” he wrote on X.

The U.S. and Canadian dual citizen who died was Jacob Flickinger, 33. He had served as an infantryman in the Canadian armed forces before working in Mexico with World Central Kitchen.

Governments call for accountability

Canada’s foreign minister said she was “horrified” by the news and said those responsible must be held accountable.

The White House was “outraged” and called for “appropriate accountability,” said John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

In a Reuters interview Wednesday, humanitarian chef Andrés said “The U.S. must do more to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu this war needs to end now.” He said he believed Israeli forces had targeted the aid workers “systematically, car by car.”

World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore praised all the victims in a statement announcing their identities, saying: “These are the heroes of World Central Kitchen. These 7 beautiful souls were killed by the IDF in a strike as they were returning from a full day’s mission. Their smiles, laughter, and voices are forever embedded in our memories. And we have countless memories of them giving their best selves to the world. We are reeling from our loss. The world’s loss.”

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